2010-05-20 / Local & State

Philadelphia Man Ambling And Blogging Across America

By Robert Moran

PHILADELPHIA Pa. (AP) – Ten miles from the Ohio border, Mike Gallagher, a 27-year-old from Philadelphia who is “just taking a stroll’’ to San Francisco, reflected on his monthlong trek across Pennsylvania.

Once he passed Lancaster, he said, “it was like breaking through the atmosphere. Everything was new.’’

He is reporting his experiences on his blog, thewalk2010. com – like the time he decided to lie down for a rest near Bedford and drew the attention of police, who had received calls from passing motorists that there was a dead man on the side of the road.

“I was just staring at the clouds, wondering how sunny it would be if I was over them,’’ he wrote on April 22.

So why did he decide to quit his tech job at St. Joseph’s University and walk across America?

It’s a journey of discovery, of course. He’s young, and wants to see what is beyond the life he has experienced so far.

“To a certain extent, I am considering this a sort of a rite of passage into my adulthood,’’ he wrote on his blog before the trip. “I’ve generally been a very immature, unappreciative little brat and feel like I’ve had a hand walking me down a path of security that never really allowed me to find who I am and what I really think.’’

Along the way, he is shooting a video documentary, which he plans to put together after the trip. That is, if he doesn’t succumb to the constant pain in his left heel.

Gallagher, a St. Joe’s grad, is used to moving around. He was born in Baltimore, then lived a few years in Puerto Rico before settling in Exton for a good chunk of his childhood. He attended high school in Florida and then returned to the area for college.

He trained for months for this cross-country trip, taking long walks, but it wasn’t enough. “I just didn’t train on hills enough,’’ he said from the Hill Top Laundry in Beaver County. He did, however, survive several mountain ranges in Western Pennsylvania. Ahead of him, thankfully, is a lot of flat country.

There are other hazards for a lone traveler that could sideline him. He carries a baton and a can of Mace just in case.

Some problems have been self-inflicted. Barely out of Philadelphia, he lost his wallet. He now relies on his passport for identification.

Although there was that one time he was thought to be dead, he has found people to be friendly and helpful, particularly outside of Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. He likened the rural, central part of the state to the South.

“Pennsylvania is a little bit of everything in terms of what you expect culturewise,’’ he said.

He sleeps in a tent unless he is in a town where he has a friend or relative who can put him up for the night. He tries to pitch his tent near a welcoming business or home, or at a campground, but sometimes he finds himself on land without permission. He hasn’t run into trouble, yet.

“The night sleeping in the woods behind Frito-Lay was great!’’ he wrote on his blog from near New Oxford. “Good sleep and the brilliant lullaby of trucks, animals, and trains.’’

Gallagher started his walk April 5, his birthday, in South Philadelphia, where he had an apartment until October, when he let his lease run out and began “couch-surfing’’ with friends.

He announced his decision to make a cross-country trip by foot at a dinner with friends last May. “They all thought I was crazy,’’ he said, and didn’t really believe him.

On Wednesday evening, he crossed the border into Ohio. “Just walked across Pa, you’re welcome ..., “ he wrote on his Twitter account, (at)thewalk2010.

With the help of his friend Joe Ross, he is able to post on his blog, Twitter, and Facebook from his phone, which he also uses to snap photographs.

That is one difference between Gallagher and the many seekers and individualists who have walked across the country in decades past. Technology lessens the isolation and makes the trip less dangerous. He can call for help if his Achilles tendon snaps, for example. Gallagher originally figured his walk would take about six months. Now, he estimates that it will take closer to eight.

His parents were not keen on the walk. “My mom was terrified, but she never told me. My dad told me that,’’ Gallagher said. His father wasn’t thrilled, either. But now, his parents are very supportive, he said.

Some yawn or derisively mock his endeavor.

A City Paper article about his trip drew angry comments from readers who seemed exasperated by the idea.

“Ugh. This is nauseating. Why would anyone care about some lazy adolescent’s road trip? And he’s BLOGGING about it? Seriously? Is this meant to be a joke? Like, a parody of hipsterdom or something? Ugh,’’ one reader wrote.

Gallagher said he wasn’t bothered by the criticism.

The walk has been done before, he acknowledged, but what’s important for him is that “it’s done through my eyes.’’

Return to top